I remember being in Uganda, Africa a few summers ago. While I was there, a group of high school sophomores from Ireland came through. They were of the “conservative-Christian” political class in Ireland. After asking them questions, I quickly found out that “conservative-Christian” has a much different meaning there than here. Not one of the teenagers believed or even knew the gospel, only a couple of them said that the Bible may be true in some parts, and many of them doubted God’s existence. Believe it or not, Bono’s(from the band U2) daughter was there. I preached in the church service at the local orphanage on a Sunday morning with the teenagers also present. I preached on the gospel of Christ through the lens of being adopted into God’s family as a son through Jesus. But I didn’t just give the facts, rather I preached the gospel of Jesus emotionally, passionately, and compellingly. At the end of the service, the Irish students came up and said that if a preacher preached like that in their country…in such a way that it was obvious he believed what he preached…his church would be packed out.
Youth pastors, when we are preaching and teaching our teenagers, we must preach in a way that is passionate and compelling. Yes, our natural humor will keep their attention, keep them laughing, and keep them awake. But the way in which we preach is even a reflection of what we’re preaching – the authoritative Word of Christ. Sure, teenagers love humor, and there is nothing wrong with using it. But if our messages to teenagers are only filled with jokes and humor…then honestly, the spiritual lives of our teenagers will be just that – one big joke. Teenagers are attracted to emotion and passion. Try putting a rapper on a stage that just hits the right beats, busts the right moves, and gets all the words right…but with no emotion. It bores the students to tears. Teenagers are crying out for youth pastors who are personally passionate about the Word, who allow it to infect their hearts with an emotional awe of the glory of Christ, and who are able to preach the Word in a convincing way…that it is vital for our lives (2 Cor 5:11)!
Let me encourage you, as you may be seeking to preach in such a way that you are telling the story of Scripture, tell your stories in such a way that you put the student right there in the heat of the situation. Don’t just rattle off facts and details, but engage their imaginations by describing exactly what the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions of the situation might be. When we put the students right in the center of the scenario of the story of Scripture…we are teaching them to love the Word! I believe that students desire to love the Word because they have a powerful Holy Spirit working within them to drive them to love the Word (1 Peter 2:2)!
Lastly, teenagers love what is real. If it is real to you, and you can relay it to them as reality, it will be just as real to them. They desperate want to see how the reality of the world invades their realm that they live in daily. So preach/teach to teenagers compellingly, passionately, emotionally, descriptively, convincingly, convicting-ly, and most of all…keep it centered on Christ! We want to leave our students with a real love for Christ every time we approach them with His Word (Rom 10:17).